Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Paganism or Pentecost???

We never gave a thought to how the church has been gradually changing over the past few decades, but recently, you may have noticed how church is just not the same as it used to be. Something has changed attitudes, behaviors and theologies. We have been warned over the years about the dangers of humanism, yet we have been helpless to keep our children from it’s indoctrination. Humanism glorifies the abilities of man to solve the dilemmas of the human race by looking within rather than to God. It is a new form of a very old Gnosticism.

But today, the problem goes even deeper as the church is being strongly influenced to adopt the practices of paganism. Paganism has always been looked at in a broad sense as anyone whose faith rested in any practice or ceremony that was not Christian. Some believe that a pagan is anyone whose religion is outside of Christianity such as Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam. Others see a pagan as anyone without any religion. Today, pagans are all around us. Some even worship with us side by side on Sunday morning. Their god is not our God. They have remade God into a god that suits their way of life. Pagans have always been worshippers of many gods. But today’s pagan are a whole new breed. They may call themselves “Christian” but their Christianity is far removed from the Biblical Christianity Jesus taught His disciples to share. How can we recognize paganism today?

Modern Paganism

Today’s pagans are often referred to as neo-pagans. One blogger described them this way: “neo-paganism” is becoming a favorite feint of the “spiritual-but-not-religious” crowd, a means to continue their undiluted worship of their own reflections while avoiding the inevitable demands a god would make on them. It often includes Wiccans and earth worshippers. While pagans often are polytheistic, believing in many gods, they often focus on just one god to worship, or none at all. In Christianity, we do not believe in many gods—there is just one God.

Paganism does not have a foundational book of writings on which to base their religion. As a result, what is believed changes from group to group, country to country, culture to culture. In Christianity, we have the Bible which keeps our truths consistent, inerrant and infallible. Our belief, when founded on the Word of God, never changes.

Pagans often recognize the beauty of the life of Jesus, seeing him as a good man. But Christianity sees him as the One God chose to send as a redeemer for the sin of all mankind. He was more than a good man, a prophet, and teacher. He was and is the Son of God.

Because of the beliefs of modern pagans, it is impossible to be a Christian and a pagan. Christianity is exclusive. That is one of its strengths. It keeps our faith pure. But today’s culture is demanding more and more that we become more inclusive in our acceptance of groups that are variant to Biblical Christianity. Some of our Bible translations have been watered down. A recent example I read about was how the Today’s New International Version (TNIV) has changed the attitude against homosexuality to only against “practicing homosexuals.” (1 Cor 6:9). Yet the term ‘practicing’ is never applied to other sins and is not in the Greek text.

Today, one of the facets of the modern church is the ‘emergent church movement’. It is a confusing multifaceted philosophy of doing spiritual stuff that is appealing to both Christians and non-Christians. When the church in the name of renewal, waters down the message of the gospel, and by its adoption of new philosophies and theologies commences redefining Biblical Christianity—we are walking a dangerous line. Their own web site defines the emergent church this way: “Emergent is a growing generative friendship among missional Christian leaders seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” That sounds nice...but, what happens in practice? The many mega churches of our day have strongly influenced even the churches in small communities to become ‘seeker sensitive.’ It sounds nice to make the church a place where anyone can feel comfortable until you realize that it means not offending anyone who believes anything different from the Bible. In doing so, we end up offending the God we come to worship, failing to make Him our priority, we have chosen to make the sinner and his comfort our priority. It is as if God can not handle sinners, and conviction is too much for them. It’s as if the Holy Spirit and His vital role in the church just does not matter anymore. We become tolerant of all kinds of belief systems, and the idea of ‘belonging before believing’ often makes the church compromise its morals and values while ignoring the need to denounce sin and call it by its Biblical name, we endure it in order to keep the ‘seeker’. It is a method of religion that causes the church to conform rather than be transformed.

One of the greatest soul winners of a previous generation was D. L. Moody. When others criticized his way of doing things he said: “I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.” His witness transformed lives!

Today, instead of doing the work of the ministry, we love to read about it. Some are fascinated by books like Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership by Laurie Beth Jones—"Following the example of Jesus-a "CEO" who took a disorganized "staff" of twelve and built a thriving enterprise." Here Jesus is demoted from redeeming Messiah to a CEO. Others pick up “The Shack” and fail to see the subtle wrong teachings regarding the trinity, the character of God and sin. In it the author has ‘God” saying… “I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it" (p. 120). Yet sinners who continue to reject God will be punished for their ultimate choice. The only ‘cure’ for sin is Jesus and our making Him Lord of our lives. Unfortunately many will think after reading this book that God will overlook our sins and ‘understand’.

Another book that is fascinating Christians is “The Secret,” a book made very popular by Oprah and her book club. It is a book that deals with the ‘law of attraction’, a very ‘New Age’ or pagan concept of mind over matter. Wikipedia describes it this way:The tenet of the book is that an individual's focused positive thinking can result in life-changing results such as increased wealth, health, happiness and more. As a result of practicing what this book teaches, mankind supposedly rules the universe and what WE think is what makes a difference. But the Bible teaches us that in us dwells nothing good. We are lost, sinful, carnal, lusting, wounded people who need a Savior—the kind of Savior that Jesus is—One who can free us from our bondages, our sin, our hurts, our past, and prepare us for an eternal home with Him. Nothing I can do—good thoughts, kind words, positive attitudes—can make me into something different. But in Christ, I am a new creation. All the old is gone. He takes away the sin and the desire to sin. He frees me from addictive behavior. He heals my heart and helps me to forgive those who hurt me. If I want life changing results, I need divine forgiveness. If I need healing, I need the touch of the Master’s hand. If I need happiness, I need His transformational power in my daily life.

Paganism in Pentecost?

Is it possible that paganism has even seeped into the ranks of the Pentecostals? I was raised in a Pentecostal church. Yet the church I often see today is not the same as the one in which I grew up. How has it changed? The focus is changed. Instead of being concerned with what God wants to do in our midst, we concern ourselves with what WE want to do today. As a result, most believers attend church when they want to. They do not feel compelled to be faithful to His house of worship. Yet scripture clearly teaches “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Heb 10:25 Another change is in worship, a hot button in many churches. Worship has often degenerated into entertainment. When people are entertained, they do not participate—they watch and listen. I have been bothered by churches who used people who are not sensitive to the Holy Spirit, whose goal is to ‘perform’ rather than worship. Some use non-Christians and those with compromising habits. In Jewish temple service, cleanliness of heart, mind and body was paramount. How about today?

Another change I have noticed is in the preaching. Too often pastors are afraid to “preach the Word.” Because their church is compromised, they know such preaching will step on toes and jeopardize their salaries. It takes courage to be a genuine voice for God. I have heard too many ‘how-to’ sermons, and psychology lessons combined with a Bible story to make it palatable. There is a famine in the land for the Word of God. Paul commanded young Timothy  “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;” (2 Tim 4:1-3) That time has come. Pastors—be bold in the power of the Spirit! Preach the Word. Convince and rebuke without fear. Exhort those who are standing strong. It is the only way we can keep paganism out of Pentecost!

J. Johnson

Praise reports and prayer requests…..

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Pray for the Johnsons as they seek a new place of full time ministry...a church that needs strong leadership. Pray for the Godmobile now in many country fairs. Pray for grieving families who have lost loved ones..( Arleen Johnson and Lavern Brandon families).. Pray for Pastors, Evangelists, Missionaries, and Teachers. Pray for US Army Chaplain Steve Maglio

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